Cats, dogs, monkeys and birds have been cherished on board ships for as long as people have made sea voyages. In a life from which children and families are usually missing, and are often very much missed, pets provide a focus for emotions and affection – although cats and dogs may have been expected to earn their keep catching mice and rats, too.
There was once a man who could ‘take needles out of his mouth for half an hour at a time’, who could make ‘beautiful vases appear’ from thin air. He was a magician, and the people of a Northern Chinese village would watch spellbound as he ‘performed a hundred magic feats’. One day a little boy asked him if he could turn stones into bread as food was scarce. The magician told the boy that he would only conjure bread in front of his pupils, so the boy pleaded with the magician to teach him. The boy was taught the art of magic and went on to become a great magician, revered by the likes of Harry Houdini and Charlie Chaplin and performing in theatres around the world.
This forms one of the many myths surrounding one of the most successful magicians of the early 20th century – the world renowned Chinese acrobat and vaudeville performer, Long Tack Sam. Lurking in the storage rooms of the museum, you’ll find a cabinet containing a black and white nitrate negative taken by another famous Sam. Samuel J Hood’s photograph depicts Long Tack Sam no longer a boy in 1880s China but a man in 1930s Sydney, posing with his company of artists reading The Telegraph newspaper.
When I first saw this image in the collection, I was curious. It remained a mystery until one of our Flickr followers identified it and opened up Sam’s amazing story. I got in contact with his great-granddaughter, writer and filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, who has worked tirelessly over the past several years to resurrect a story long forgotten. In her award winning film The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, and graphic novel of the same name, Ann Marie pieces together the story of her famous ancestor… Continue reading
I’m pleased to announce the May winner of the museum’s #HoodsHarbour People’s Choice competition. Robert Osborne chose this photograph from the museum’s Samuel J Hood collection via our Flickr Commons photostream. Robert noted the picture ‘reminded me of the Manly Ferries as I used to spend the journey looking into the engine room from the passenger area and soak up the sights and smells‘. He composed a poem, which now forms the basis for the photograph’s exhibition label:
A memory of the past,
the glorious days of old.
The smell of oil and steam,
the shine of brass.
Gone, but still a dream.
Congratulations to Robert and thanks to all those who participated in our #HoodsHarbour competition. It was a museum first for us and was aimed at engaging visitors by allowing them to explore our historic photographic collection online as well as participate in the exhibition process. We hope you enjoyed it just as much as we did! 🙂
#HoodsHarbour is open at the museum until 9 June 2014.
At about 2pm on 24 April 1915, 5,000 Australian troops marched through streets of Sydney. Symbolising the ‘State’s official farewell to the troops’, it wasn’t until a few months later that they finally embarked for war. On this day, 99 years ago, over 200,000 people flocked to the city to bid farewell and a safe return to ‘Our Boys in Blue’ and ‘The Khaki Men‘. It was a goodbye seemingly unaware of the horror that would unfold the following day – the day Australian and New Zealand forces commenced a devastating 8-month conflict; the day they landed at what is now known as ANZAC Cove. Continue reading
I’m pleased to announce the first winner of the museum’s #HoodsHarbour People’s Choice competition for the month of April. Myleah Bailey from Victoria has chosen this photograph from the museum’s Samuel J Hood collection via our Flickr Commons photostream. It depicts crowds at Circular Quay, Sydney welcoming home the crew of HMAS Sydney II on 10 February 1941. The ship had left Australia 10 months previously for battle in the Mediterranean and relatives were keen to see their fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, husbands, fiancées, boyfriends and friends again. Myleah told us why this was her favourite from the Hood collection, which now forms the basis for the photograph’s exhibition label:
The faces and fashions change, but be it 1941 or 2014 the heartfelt message, and title, of this image remains the same – ‘Welcome Home’.
Our winner told me she ‘was very surprised to receive it! I really enjoyed seeing the pictures in the exhibition and there were many beautiful ones displayed.’ Congratulations Myleah!
The day has finally arrived for the opening of our #HoodsHarbour exhibition! Showcasing a small selection from our Samuel (Sam) J Hood collection, #HoodsHarbour pays homage to the work of a group of individuals we call our ‘super sleuths’. Thanks to their efforts on our Flickr Commons page, we were able to solve the mystery behind the image that formed the inspiration for this exhibition – the lovely Hera Roberts. The story of this discovery symbolises the way that our followers have enriched our collection, unearthing its secrets and finding its hidden stories. Hood’s photograph of Hera remains the highest viewed and most favourited on the museum’s Flickr Commons photostream to date. More than 80 years after it was taken, Hera continues to captivate and inspire our audiences. Continue reading
I am constantly amazed at the array of discoveries that are being made in the Australian National Maritime Museum’s collection. Some of them are just what you might expect from a maritime history collection, and others are just downright unusual. Until recently, the above photograph was catalogued as ‘unidentified Japanese woman’ posing on board the San Franciscan liner SS Sierra at an event celebrating the arrival of Australia’s first Movietone News truck on 8 August 1929. However, as one of our Flickr Commons followers demonstrated, Sydney photographer Samuel J Hood photographed his fair share of interesting characters from far away shores. Continue reading
In 1938, on an uninhabited island somewhere between America and New Zealand, a German nobleman anchored his schooner. He had a mission. Twenty-one years previously, he’d buried treasure, or as he told the American press, ‘a chest with gold and German banknotes’. He told The Australian Women’s Weekly that a ‘plan of the hidden treasure was tattooed on his knee’ and he was finally making the journey from his country to retrieve it. There have been many labels used to describe Count Felix Graf von Luckner – war raider, Nazi spy, gentleman pirate, ‘rollicking buccaneer’, and the list goes on. Some of them are unfounded, yet some of them contain elements of the truth. So when he finally arrived, Samuel J Hood was on hand to photograph the man famed for sinking 28 Allied merchant vessels in 1917. Hood’s photographs display a glimmer of the controversy and suspicion aroused that day back in May 1938 as tensions brewed in Europe and a German war raider known as Der Seeteufel (the Sea Devil) sailed into Sydney waters in the dead of the night. Continue reading
Much of what I research seems to gravitate toward the museum’s Samuel J Hood photographic collection. Even when I try to focus on a specific historical event, the odds are, Sam or one of his photographers were there snapping away and I’m left spellbound by a spectacular series of glass plate negatives. Sixty years ago today, we lost one of our most prolific and compelling photographers. We lost a man who ensured that much of early twentieth-century Sydney was documented for us to appreciate today. Continue reading
On 15 October 1904, a ‘young skipper’ with a ‘bright future’ brimming with promise was born. Alexis François Albert took to sailing as if it was in his blood. In conjunction with the success his father Frank enjoyed with Rawhiti, Alexis skippered the 21-foot yacht Boomerang. However, it was with the eight-metre yacht Norn that he truly shone. Combined with his success on the water, J Albert and Son also flourished as he assumed the mantle of managing director in 1931, aged 27. As J Albert and Son progressed and Alexis pursued his passion for sailing, the advent of television in 1956 and the rock n’ roll era of the 1960s and 70s changed the face of the entertainment industry. One man stepped forward with the creative vision that would harvest a string of chart-topping hits and dramatically shape Australia’s cultural landscape for years to come. This is the next instalment of the Albert family story. Continue reading
It was a clear and crisp autumn afternoon in 1925 when ‘one of Sydney’s show yachts’ sailed up to the Man-o’-war steps in Farm Cove, Sydney. Father and son, Frank and Alexis Albert, were about to host an afternoon with the Governor and his daughter on board their 54-foot cutter, Rawhiti. This was a long way from 41 years previously when, again in Farm Cove, Frank was just 10 years old and first set foot on Sydney’s unfamiliar shores. This tale started for me when one of our Flickr Commons investigators recognised Frank and Alexis in a Samuel J Hood photograph. As I delved deeper into the Albert family history, I became more and more fascinated by their remarkable story. It tells of a journey to the unknown, of new beginnings and innovation. In many ways, the Alberts sailed through Australia’s “golden years”, not just on Sydney Harbour but through that other “golden age” – of rock n’ roll. This is part one of their story. Continue reading
Every week I come across new discoveries being made on our Flickr Commons stream. One of my aims in writing about the historic watercraft that graced Australian waters is to try and find the people behind the vessels. I want to discover the families who made these vessels their own and developed a close connection with them. One such story yet again sprung out of a Samuel J Hood photograph from our collection, depicting a bearded man in front of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron headquarters in Kirribilli, Sydney. One of our Flickr followers suggested a name and once I had that name, a connection was formed and then, a story was born. Continue reading
This is one of my favourite photographs by Samuel J Hood. It is also one of the most beautiful portraits that I have seen from the museum’s collection. For quite some time though, the identity of the subject remained a mystery. Time and time and again I would go back to this photograph, zooming in and back out, trying to spot that elusive clue that would miraculously lead to a name; a name and then hopefully a story. So imagine my surprise when I came back from the holiday break and saw that someone had found exactly that. A name and a story… Continue reading
Five years ago today the Flickr Commons was launched. Since then, about 250,000 images from 56 different libraries, archives and museums have been uploaded, promoting the world’s photographic collections in all its splendour. I don’t think any of us envisioned the response it has elicited from audiences around the world. In particular, from a large group of elite photo investigators, people the National Library of Ireland refers to as the ‘Flickeroonies’ and who we often call the ‘super sleuths’. This group have invested hours upon hours of thorough research identifying people, places and key events, adding new meaning to the images on The Commons. To celebrate The Commons’ 5th birthday and, as a hats off to these contributors, The Library of Congress sent out a call for the most viewed, commented or favourited images on The Commons. We, and quite a number of other institutions, answered the call and the result was a fascinating array of snapshots from the past.Continue reading
On 5 September 1936, crowds gathered at wharf 10 in Walsh Bay, Sydney to farewell the cast and crew of a new Australian ‘talkie’, Mystery Island. Among those at the wharf about to board SS Morinda was actor Brian Abbot who was photographed, by Samuel J Hood, farewelling his wife Grace Rikard Bell. They appear happily embracing each other, completely unaware that this would be the last time they would see each other. Over a month after this photograph was taken, Brian Abbot and fellow castmate, Desmond Hay, set off on a risky voyage across the ‘stormy Tasman’ from Lord Howe Island to Sydney – the two were never seen again. Continue reading